Pornhub, xHamster and Xvideos are among the porn sites at risk of being blocked in France, after authorities followed Germany in threatening to crack down on the sites due to a lack of stringent age verification rules.
The three sites, plus the porn sites XNXX and TuKif, were told that they had until December 28 2021 to implement proper age verification processes for users, to prevent people under the age of 18 accessing their sites.
France’s Higher Audiovisual Council said it would ask a judge to order the sites to be blocked if they did not comply. Last year a law requiring porn sites to verify that users are over 18 was introduced in the country.
The move sees France join Germany in putting the squeeze on porn sites over user age verification. On 1 December 2021 a judge in Düsseldorf administrative court ruled that a ban on Pornhub, YouPorn and MyDirty Hobby was justified based on Germany’s child protection regulations.
In October 2021 a French court rejected a lawsuit filed by child protection organisations seeking to force French telecommunications firms to block porn sites including Pornhub and xHamster.
France’s Higher Audiovisual Council’s efforts to block porn sites are expected to be more robust. The council is responsible for regulating broadcasting in the country. It said: “Children faced by such [porn] content can suffer lasting shock at the very least.”
Pornhub, the biggest porn site in the world, is owned by the Canadian company MindGeek. xHamster operates out of Cyprus under the wing of Hammy Media Ltd. XVideos, founded in Paris, is owned by WGCZ Holding. XNXX is an offshoot site of XVideos, while TuKif is based in Portugal.
A TuKif manager told AFP: “It appears discriminatory and disproportionate to see the CSA [the Conseil Supérieur de L’audiovisuel, which translates to the Higher Audiovisual Council] target only five sites including TuKif, while sites with substantially higher traffic like YouPorn have not at this stage been the subject of any measure by the CSA.”
The manager added that he found it “incomprehensible to be among the only sites targeted when there are several hundred sites in France”.
Several other countries have mulled introducing stricter age verification measures to prevent underage users, but critics argue that the wide-ranging laws won’t prevent minors from accessing porn, and could fundamentally change how mainstream social media sites approach adult content.
As the deadline for the measures has now passed in France, we can only wait and see if the authorities make good on the threats to shut the businesses down in the country.